A California court has ordered a Silicon Valley billionaire to restore access to a popular beach that he closed off for his private use, in a major win for public lands advocates who have been fighting the venture capitalist for years.
An appeals court ruled on Thursday that Vinod Khosla, who runs the venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and co-founded the tech company Sun Microsystems, reopen the gates to Martins Beach in northern California by his property.
According to commentators, the decision comes as a major blow to Khosla and other wealthy landowners who have been trying to buy up beaches along the California coast and turn public lands into private property.
The beach was at one time a popular destination for fishing, surfing and other recreational activities for nearly a century, and the previous owners had also provided a general store and public restroom.
But after Khosla bought the property and in 2010, he closed public access, and put up signs warning against trespassing.
Khosla, who has a net worth of $1.55 billion and does not live on the property, has faced multiple lawsuits and legislative efforts to get him to open up the gate to the beach near Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.
The law in California state requires that all beaches be open to the public up to the ''mean high tide line''.
According to the court ruling, the two companies Khosla started to manage the property did not obtain a coastal development permit before closing the coast to the public.
Khosla even went to the extent of hiring guards to keep people off the property. The Surfrider Foundation subsequently took Khosla to court and sought a return of beach access for the public.
''This is not simply a win for surfers in San Mateo County," Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation's legal director, said in a statement. ''This is a win for all of the beach going public that wish to enjoy California's beautiful 1100-mile coastline."